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Report: widespread abuse of Irish children in Catholic Church-run institutions

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Peter Morrison/AP

(Read caption) A man looks at the Papal Cross in Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland, Wednesday May, 20, 2009. A fiercely debated, nine-year investigation into Ireland's Roman Catholic-run institutions says priests and nuns terrorized thousands of boys and girls in workhouse-style schools for decades – and government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation.

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DUBLIN, IRELAND – Help lines and counseling services have reported a surge in callers after the publication Wednesday of a five-volume report (find it here) by Ireland's Commission into Child Abuse that found widespread “physical and emotional abuse and neglect" of thousands of children in dozens of orphanages, schools, and workhouse-style reform schools run by Roman Catholic religious orders.

The victim support group, One in Four, which called yesterday a "shameful day" for Ireland, kept its lines open into the night. Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, chief executive of the Rape Crisis Centre, told The Irish Times that many who had contacted the center were first-time callers.

"Last night we brought in extra volunteers to man the phones … and already today we've had a large number of people contacting us," she said.

The report found that sexual abuse was “endemic” in boys’ institutions, and throughout the system children were “frequently hungry” and “lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from.” The investigation spanned incidents from the 1930s to the 1990s. Many of the institutions have since closed. The government has vowed to increase unannounced inspections of those still open.

Based on evidence from almost 2,000 witnesses and various representatives from religious orders that ran the institutions, the report took nearly a decade to complete. In addition to the investigation committee, which produced the report, there was also a truth forum-style confidential committee that allowed victims to tell their stories out of the public eye.

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